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12/14/2006
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Microsoft Updates Vista To Block 'Frankenbuild' Counterfeits

The move was prompted by the appearance of DVD counterfeits of Windows Vista in various parts of the world, including Brazil.

Microsoft on Thursday responded to hacks that break Windows Vista's antipiracy protection by issuing an update that essentially kills some of the counterfeit copies.

"In the event illegal workarounds or other counterfeit Windows Vista code are posted to the Internet or become available through other means, Microsoft will take appropriate action to protect users from the risks of using counterfeit copies and to protect its intellectual property," the company said Thursday in a statement.

The move was prompted by the appearance of DVD counterfeits in what the company described as "various parts of the world," including Brazil. The counterfeit, which Microsoft engineers have dubbed "frankenbuild," sidesteps Vista's activation by cobbling an operating system from files drawn from both this fall's Release Candidate (RC) and November's Release To Manufacturing (RTM) versions.

Microsoft has issued an update to Vista via Windows Update that detects the frankenbuild counterfeit, then demands a valid activation key.

"Windows Vista will use the new Windows Update client to require only the 'frankenbuild' systems to go through a genuine validation check," said Alex Kochis of the Windows Genuine Advantage team on the group's blog. "These systems will fail that check because we have blocked the RC keys for systems not authorized to use them. In other words, the wrong key is being used.

"The systems will then be flagged as non-genuine systems and the experience will be what we announced back in October, including losing certain functionality, and the system will have 30 days to activate with a good product key," Kochis added.

In October, Microsoft spelled out Vista's copy protection scheme, which blends product activation and Windows validation. Under the new plan, called Software Protection Platform, copies of Vista that don't activate with a legitimate product key within 30 days drop into a reduced functionality mode, which lets the user run only the default browser, and then only for an hour at a time. Some analysts have tagged the new activation process as giving Microsoft the ability to set a "kill bit" that makes Vista unusable.

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